Reports in Italy claim that Lance Armstrong will meet with officials from the Tour de France before deciding whether or not he will compete in next year’s race.
According to the Associated Press agency, Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport claimed on Sunday that Johan Bruyneel, the Astana team manager, and Armstrong have asked for a meeting with Tour officials. Only after the meeting will Armstrong come to a definitive decision.
So far direct communication between Tour organisers ASO and Armstrong’s management over his potential participation appears to have been limited. Frosty relations towards the end of Armstrong’s seven-year run of Tour wins have not thawed with news of his comeback.
Bruyneel told Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure that a meeting between himself and ASO officials had been planned after the Tour de France presentation but that it never materialised. Hence the importance that finally another get-together has been proposed.
The announcement is the latest development in a longrunning saga over over whether Armstrong will or will not take part in the 2009 Tour de France.
Armstrong kickstarted talk of his comeback by categorically telling American magazine Vanity Fair that he was going to be gunning for an eighth Tour.
However, the Tour organisers? lukewarm response to Armstrong?s announcement, as well as Armstrong?s concerns about what kind of welcome he will have in France, have turned what could have been a definitive participation into a will-he/won?t-he scenario.
At one point Bruyneel said the chances of the American returning to the Tour were 50-50 and Armstrong has said that the Tour of Italy could be the one three-week stage race he takes part in in 2009. Now it would seem that a single meeting will be the key element in deciding whether the most successful ever Tour de France rider actually takes part in the race again – or not.
What appears to be definitely on the program for Armstrong is the following: Tour Down Under (Jan 20th – 25th); Tour of California (February 14th-22nd); Criterium International (March 27th-28th); Tour of Flanders (April 4th) and the Tour of Italy (May 9th-31st). Races that have been cited as possible include Paris-Nice (March 8th-15th) and the Dauphine Libere (June 7th-14th).
Both the Criterium International and Paris-Nice are events in France run by ASO – just like the Tour. But it is only the Tour de France where there are so many questionmarks over Armstrong’s possible participation.